The Roman Colosseum for Kids
Hello there! Oh, how I love Italy! And what’s not to love?! Beautiful weather, fantastic food, and some of the most amazing monuments in the world! The best part is sharing this beautiful country, and history, with our kids! I mean, what’s not to love about dragging your kids around, all day long, in the hot, Roman sunshine? Come on, they love it … right?
How we travel
I decided, years ago, to change the way we travel and make the kids our tour guides! In each location, they are to find a list of items and we learn the stories of why we are looking at each item – kind of like a scavenger hunt for every destination we visit!
This is what we did during our trip to the Roman Colosseum, and not once did we hear “are we done yet” (and we were even there in July!) Whew, it was hot!
Here is the list of ten items we gave our kids to find in the Roman Colosseum (and the stories behind them.) Enjoy reading our list, tell your kids the stories, and then let them find each and every item on the list!
They will be busy, they will learn cool facts, and they will certainly feel excited to find the list of items. Now go on and have some fun!
Tickets to the Roman Colosseum
First, a travel tip before you go to the Roman Colosseum with kids – buy your tickets online (ahead of time!) Traveling with kids is difficult enough, but traveling with kids while standing in line for hours is excruciating! We have been numerous times, and there is always a long line!
If you buy online directly from the Colosseum (online site here), you pay the best price and you can skip the line for no additional fee! Online price: 14 euros. This only includes entrance and not any tours or access to the underground tunnels.
Or you can buy a package with a tour and choose your options for skip the line entry, and pick what types of tours you want. I love the Colosseum tour for families and kids, and it’s great for adults too. I also am a big fan of the Combo tour of the Colosseum and the Vatican.
Last this tour of both the upper part of the Colosseum and the newly opened underground tunnels is super cool for you and your gladiators.
—> compare all prices here <–
Roman Colosseum History
Why was the Roman Colosseum built? When the Flavian family took over Rome, they wanted to give something back to the people because Nero, the old ruler, was not a very nice guy. They built this great amphitheater for all Romans to enjoy. The amphitheater was free for all citizens of Rome (as long as they wore their best clothes to the games.) The emperor even supplied food for all who came.
The theater could hold 55,000 people and it took eight full years to build! It was covered in white marble and was one of the most beautiful structures in Rome!
Facts about the Colosseum for Kids
1. Entrances: You should know that the amphitheater has 80 entrances and exits. 76 of those entrances were used for the people of Rome. Each was numbered above the arches. There are only two arches that you can still see the Roman numerals – gate 23 (XXIII), which is three arches down from Life’s Gate, and the other gate you can find is gate 54 (LIV), which is close to Death’s Gate. Try to find them when you look for the Life and Death Gate (listed below.) Most people don’t even know they are there! Entrances 1-4 were used by the emperor, senators, and special guests, like the Vestal Virgins, who were the protectors of Rome.
2. Seating: Have the kids look to your left or right – you can see the amphitheater going up. There are four levels of seating inside the theater. The first floor was for dignitaries, rich people, and government officials. The second level was for the nobles and knights. The third level was for normal men of Rome. The fourth tier was for the normal women of Rome. Hmm, what do you think about that? My kids thought the idea of me sitting all the way at the top was hilarious!
3. Life’s Gate: This is a huge archway that was the exact arch where the gladiators, exotic animals, and all the chariots would enter into the Colosseum! They would parade around Rome and end at the Colosseum. The arch is big so it can accommodate large chariots and larger animals like ostriches, elephants, and rhinoceros. Believe it or not, some chariots were even pulled by ostriches.
Life’s Gate is the big gate near where you entered into the Roman Colosseum. If you are looking into the middle of the Colosseum, and you are standing directly in front of the new walkway that crosses the middle to the other side, Life’s Gate is right behind you!
Why is it called “Life Gate?” Well, because everyone entered the Colosseum alive and only those gladiators who lived through the battle were allowed to leave through this archway!
4. Roman Colosseum floor: When you are inside, you have some options. If you go forward, you can walk on the walkway that crosses the middle of the Colosseum. You will notice below there are many stone pillars and spaces. Use your imagination and pretend this whole area is covered with a wooden floor! This was, yup, you guessed it, the Colosseum floor where the games actually took place. On this floor was sand, and under the sand were 36 trap doors that led to the underground tunnels and animal cages. You can see the remains of the cages and tunnels below you. These trap doors were there so animals and/or props (fake trees or scenery) could suddenly appear to the crowd, magically popping up from the floor below. Imagine you were a gladiator… then a tiger suddenly appeared from below the ground. HOLY COW!
5. Underground tunnels: There are five underground tunnels, and you can actually see the tunnels from where you are standing. See if you can find five of them! Only four of the tunnels have been explored, but the fifth one was partially destroyed when Rome built some of its current infrastructure. You can also go on a tour through the tunnels!
These tunnels were used for many things.
One tunnel was used for the gladiators to enter into the arena and it comes above ground at Life’s Gate. This tunnel also led to the gladiator school that was outside the amphitheater. Lastly, they believe it also led to the saniarium, or hospital, for the wounded gladiators. The entrance to the tunnel is between gates XIX (19) and XX (20). This main tunnel would have also led to the animal cages, stables, and barns outside of the stadium.
The next tunnel leads to where the props and costumes were stored (in a room below the Colosseum.) The room is called “Summum Choragium”, but it’s easier to remember “the storage room!”
The third tunnel goes to the room where all the dead gladiators were stripped of their possessions like swords, armor, and helmets. These things were all saved and given to future gladiators. This tunnel also splits into a fourth tunnel that is used to drag the dead gladiators out of the arena to the room called the “Spoilarium.” We would know these rooms today as morgues! These two tunnels both start at Death’s Gate. The entrance to the tunnels can be found directly next to Death’s Gate between arches 57 and 58.
The final underground tunnel is known as Passaggio di Commodo. This was the secret passage for the emperor to enter and exit the amphitheater. This tunnel leads directly to Palantine Hill and the home of the emperor outside the arena. This tunnel is located right behind the emperor’s seats at the unmarked gate 1.
I have to say that the boys thought the word “commodo” was hilarious because it sounded like commode. Both of our boys rolled with laughter and sniffed around to see if they could smell someone cutting the cheese! They are really gross.
6. Death’s Gate: This gate is directly behind the stadium floor that has been rebuilt. It is also directly across from Life’s Gate. You can see it in the picture. I think you can guess what this gate was for… yes, to drag out the dead bodies of both gladiators and animals that had been killed during the games. Once you get to this gate, don’t forget to look for the secret tunnel that leads to the underground.
7. Emperor’s Box: Looking out toward the Colosseum with your back to Death’s Gate, you will see a space with a wooden floor and a large cross. It is in the middle of the south side of the amphitheater. This is where the emperor sat during the games.
8. Gladiators: The gladiators would enter into the Colosseum through Life’s Gate. Then, they would stop in front of the Emperor’s Box, salute him, and say, “For those about to die, we salute you.” The gladiators would fight, often to their death! There were over 30 kinds of gladiators. Gladiators were named by how they fought. Some fought with swords, some fought wild animals, and some fought with heavy armor! If the gladiator survived, and fought a good fight, he could ask the crowd (by a show of thumbs) if he could live and exit out of Life’s Gate. If the crowd showed their thumbs, the gladiator had to fight to the death and his body would be pulled out through Death’s Gate!
9. Cross of the Christians: Now that you have found your way around, and have pointed out where the emperors sat, you will also see a large cross in the Emperor’s Box. This is there to remember all the Christians that were killed in ancient Roman times. Many people think this is for all the deaths of the Christians that were killed in the Colosseum; however, the Colosseum was for sport and entertainment. Most of the Christians were killed at Circus Maximus.
10. Awning over the Roman Colosseum: Did you know that there once was an awning over the entire Colosseum? It was made of the same material that was used for the sails on large ships and could be stretched over the whole amphitheater. It could be put on or removed to help protect from rain or too much sun. The awning, or velarium, was attached by ropes and connected to the Colosseum by large brackets. It took 1,000 men to open the awning and tie it down each time they used it! Many of these brackets you can still find today. Here is what it looks like… how many can you find?
This is a great video on how they built and used the velarium –>
Fun fact: The velarium could also be used to create wind or draft in the Colosseum to help keep it cool during the summer months – kind of like a giant fan! Pretty cool, huh? Pun intended.
Buying a souvenir: Lastly, I know you really want a souvenir from the Colosseum, right? Sadly, those plastic swords are hard to take on the airplane, and your kids won’t ever use it when you get home. So, here is a better idea — while in Rome, get some change from a euro and ask for a five-cent coin. The five-cent euro coin has a picture of the Roman Colosseum on it that you can easily put in your pocket and take home with you to always remember Rome!
If you would like to print this guide to take with you, click here —> The Roman Colosseum for Kids
What else can I help you with in Rome?
How to get to Rome
How do we find the best price on flights? We use JetRadar which scans all the airlines to find you the best deals to your destination.
Where to Stay in Rome with kids
Renting a Car in Rome
Do you need a rental car? We often fly in and rent a car at our destination. We love the freedom of having a car to go where we want, when we want. Compare the best Prices on Car rentals Here.
Learning Italian in Rome
Do you want to learn a little bit of Italian before going to Italy? We have lived in seven countries, and we have learned the language with Pimsleur language programs. If you want some quick Italian lessons check out prices here!
I hope you enjoy your day at the Roman Colosseum for kids and learn something along the way, too! My kids loved it there, and I hope your kids will also! Quite honestly, Benas and I learned some things as well! I think we enjoyed the scavenger hunt just as much as the boys did!
This post has been recently updated as of Feb 2017.